KENNEBUNKPORT, MAINE, AUG. 26 -- Another step in the improving relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union will take place this week with the arrival in Moscow of White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and a delegation of top White House aides, who will spend the week advising the Soviets on how to organize a presidential office.
Despite the continuing crisis in the Middle East, Sununu was to leave Washington tonight and, with a stop en route to meet with Finnish President Mauno Koivisto, arrive in Moscow late Monday. He and the others are to meet with Soviet officials on Tuesday and Wednesday, then depart for Leningrad for another day of meetings. The White House team is to leave the Soviet Union on Friday and stop in London, where Sununu is to meet with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on the way back to Washington, arriving Saturday.
The delegation includes Andrew Card, deputy White House chief of staff; Ed Rogers, Sununu's executive assistant; Roger P. Porter, presidential assistant for domestic policy; James Cicconi, White House staff secretary; Frederick D. McClure, who heads the White House office of legislative affairs; and Condoleezza Rice, special assistant to the president for national security affairs.
The visit grows out of the June summit between President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, during which Gorbachev expressed interest in the organization of the White House and the relationship between the office of the presidency and other parts of the government.
After the summit, a small delegation of Soviet officials visited Washington and spent several days touring the White House and visiting with senior staff members.
This week's trip is designed as a follow-up session to give Soviet officials additional time to question the U.S. delegation about such nuts-and-bolts problems of how paper flows to and from a president, how information from Cabinet agencies is transmitted and how to manage relations with the legislative branch.
White House officials have been careful not to suggest they are going as management consultants with a how-to checklist for the Soviets. "We are not going to tell them how to organize their institutions or their processes," Porter said. "We are going to respond to questions they may have about ways in which we organize and operate."
White House officials who met with the Soviets after the summit found them extremely inquisitive. "They asked good questions," one administration official said. "They took furious notes."
The White House delegation will meet with representatives of the Council of Ministers, the Office of the President Council and the Office of the Supreme Soviet. In Leningrad, the Americans will meet with city officials.
The fact that such a senior U.S. delegation will be leaving for Moscow in the middle of the gulf crisis speaks volumes about Bush's desire to nurture the improving relationship with Gorbachev. White House officials concluded there would not be a better time for the trip, given the negotiations with Congress over the budget and clean air and civil rights legislation that Bush faces when he and Congress return from their vacations.